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exoneration

Lisa Cahill Represents Woman Exonerated After Serving 10 Years

Most independent observers don’t realize this, but the judicial system is stacked against our clients in every way. We get a front row seat to watch the injustices pile up every day. And we face defeat far more often than we experience the sweetness of victory. That may be why, when our advocacy results in a victory for a client, that success is forever etched in our minds. Some of the obvious examples are Not Guilty verdicts, a motion granted, or obtaining a sentence variance or mitigation. But one of the most powerful moments you can experience as a criminal defense lawyer has to be standing with someone exonerated after serving time based on a wrongful conviction. I have only had this experience once in my career, but that moment could carry me for a lifetime. The sense of relief and joy is overwhelming. When someone finally listens to cries that had previously fallen on deaf ears, the catharsis is both surreal and hard to fully grasp in the moment. Lisa Cahill shared such a moment with her client last week. Cahill represented Vanessa Gathers along with the Legal Aid Society and helped to vacate Gather’s manslaughter conviction. Gathers spent 10 years in prison based on a coerced confession, which was the only evidence presented at trial. Her exoneration is related to a string of wrongful convictions at the hands of Detective Scarcella, whose questionable tactics of investigation in multiple murder cases recently came to light after many years. Reading about his means-to-an-end attitude in obtaining convictions is both revolting and chilling. As Cahill properly notes, many people’s lives were destroyed and damaged by his actions. At the hearing to vacate the conviction, The New York Times quoted Cahill honoring Scarcella’s victims: “Today is a joyous day for all of us, but there is a bittersweet tinge to all this, and that is the victim and his family,” she said. “In many respects they were as much victims of Detective Scarcella as Ms. Gathers was.”  What a great victory for the client and for Lisa Cahill! Cahill’s grace in the moment of victory must be commended. She stood tall with her client and demonstrated the heart of a champion.   The post Lisa Cahill Represents Woman Exonerated After Serving 10 Years appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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DNA Exonerates 2 Men Wrongfully Convicted of Murder

Three decades after being convicted of raping murdering an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina, two mentally disabled half-brothers have been declared innocent and ordered released from prison. The two men -- one of whom was sentenced to death, the other to life in prison -- were convicted based in large part on confessions that the men claimed were coerced and which they immediately recanted, reports The New York Times. What was the new evidence that finally convinced a judge the two men were telling the truth about their innocence? Post-Conviction Analysis of DNA Evidence Similar to other recent overturned convictions, the convictions of Henry Lee McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown were overturned after DNA analysis of evidence collected during the original investigation implicated another man in the crime. In this case the other man was Roscoe Artis, who, according to The New York Times, lived just a block from where 11-year-old Sabrina Buie's body was found. Artis later admitted to raping and murdering a teenage girl. He was convicted and is now serving life in prison for that crime, but has never been charged in relation to Sabrina Buie's death. Case Previously Cited by U.S. Supreme Court Even before the men's exoneration, their convictions had become newsworthy due to the moral divide over death sentences in cases where the defendants are mentally retarded or challenged. Although the Supreme Court denied review of the case, in a dissenting opinion, Justice Blackmun decried McCollum's death sentence as "unconstitutional" given that McCollum "has an IQ between 60 and 69 and the mental age of a 9-year old." Previously, the case had also been cited by Justice Antonin Scalia in his opinion denying certiorari in a different death penalty case, 1994's Callins v. Collins. In his opinion, Scalia described McCollum's death sentence as "enviable" and "a quiet death" compared to the death of Buie. However, now Brown and McCollum's case is equally noteworthy as the latest murder conviction overturned through the use of DNA evidence. According to The New York Times, the men were set to be released from prison today. Related Resources: After 30 years in prison, two mentally challenged men exonerated in North Carolina rape-murder case (The Washington Post) Ohio Man Freed by DNA Evidence After 29 Years in Prison (FindLaw's Blotter) DNA Evidence Clears 2 Men After 30 Years (FindLaw's Blotter) NYC Reviewing 800 Rape Cases for Evidence Errors (FindLaw's Blotter)
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